Indian Cinema”s Globalization Downside

Posted on October 1, 2010 in Media and Culture

By Pratik Goyal:

What is the first thing that pops in your mind when you think about the Indian film industry, which for majority of us is limited to Bollywood, probably the masala flicks, item songs, sizzling actresses, and exotic setups, with a hero, heroin and the bad guys and same drill. This pretty much sums up a movie for majority of us.

In today’s era of globalization, India is shining on the world’s map in almost every sphere. Indian film industry is the second largest film industry of the world. It produces more than a thousand movies on an average per year which is a milestone in itself. The Indian film industry is crossing borders and, bringing fame and recognition for the motherland. Our actors are now being widely recognized and possess a strong global image. Actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Om Puri, Naserudin Shah, Salman Khan, Ashwarya Rai Bachchan are no more mere Indian film stars but are successfully a part of English cinema too. Slumdog Millionaire has given Indian Cinema a new face with actors claiming acclamation all over the world and artist like Rahman getting well deserved accolades from the global audience,enjoying the fame transcending the borders of this nation.

But not all that glitters is gold. And there are always two sides to the coin, and the Indian Cinema is no exception to that. Following India’s independence, the period from the late 1940s to the 1960s is regarded by film historians as the ‘Golden Age’ of Indian cinema. Some of the most critically acclaimed Indian films of all time were produced during this period. These films expressed social themes mainly dealing with working-class urban life in India. Indian films were frequently in competition for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for nearly every year in the 1950s and early 1960s, with a number of them winning major prizes at the festival and a number of Indian films from this era are often included among the greatest films of all time in various critics’ and directors’ polls.

But 70’s and 80’s gave way to the rise of commercial cinema and then there was no stopping after that. In the 20th century Indian Cinema Industry became a billion dollar enterprise. With more than 1000 films produced in various languages and with market in over 90 countries — Indian film industry has become a global entity. Globalization has been a game changer for Indian cinema too. Consequently thus, it has resulted in western production standards, usage of English in the script or incorporation of some element of western-style plots. The advent of multiplexes (900 multiplex screens in India) has fostered the making of films that cater to different audiences. And smart marketers have capitalized on new revenue streams and modern technology with the use of the Internet, mobile ring tones, gaming and satellite rights, which reduces pressure on box office collections.

This new movie culture, based on the multiplex revolution and a fragmented audience has provided a fertile breeding ground for the next generation of directors and actors. And this new breed of directors and actors has lost the real essence of the industry which existed in 50’s and 60’s. Indian Cinema today is largely focused on the domestic market supplemented by the huge expatriate audience. It has become insular as an industry and is basically mopping the profits thanks to the globalization. Indian movie industry has stopped being genuine global players and is playing safe. Nobody is willing to experiment and invest in new ideas and approaches to film making. Our cinema is too star-driven for its own good. Our film industry might be one of the largest or even next to Hollywood when it comes to production but they are genuinely lacking the substance which is essential if they want to be at par with the other Asian industries where turnover is lower but they have carved out niche for themselves. All this is evident from the fact that in last seven years only one Indian movie made it to Cannes and Slumdog’s Oscar nominations do not count for the one simple reason that it was made in Hollywood.

Indian industry is plagued with plagiarism. They so called inspirations from a Hollywood film or any other industry have been prevalent right from the 90’s, when commercial cinema was taking its shape. Some may argue that the budget of the Indian films is a fraction of what their counterparts have in the west which is a ground reality but hardly a formidable excuse, they can keep telling themselves that. Others might say that our culture is family based and our films are made for the working class people who do not want to wreck their brains over a movie but I do not think that this excuse has any takers as well. The real reason is that people are not open to all genres which explain the moderate success that too is enjoyed by only few films from the west.The other reason is that our industry leaders lack the imagination and a gut to experiment.. Commercialization and profit making have overwhelmed them to a large extent and if they want to revive the status that Indian industry once occupied on globally,they better come up with means to satisfy both ends.

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Andrea Arzaba

I must say I am a big bollywood fan! Greeting from Mexico :)

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